Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review #6: THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967): the first kung fu comedy!

THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967): the first kung fu comedy!

Shaw Brothers’ first movie of 1967, THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) very quietly set history as the first wuxia / comedy ever made. Released February 18th, 1967 it was produced by Sir Run Run Shaw and directed by veteran director Yan Jun. Ting Shan-Hsi wrote the script, only his second film, but the film he wrote before this one was the great COME DRINK WITH ME (1966) in an effort with King Hu. THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) is not as popular as other Shaw Brothers films of this period and while I have read other reviews of this movie there is not a lot of information on the making of the film and the audience’s reception of it. So we will just dig in and experience it for ourselves, in other words – let’s get busy!

KEYSTONE COPS chase scene
Empress Lu wants to replace the king of Zhongdu with her nephew. She sends an Imperial Edit to her nephew, General Lu Kun to assassinate the king of Zhongdu, King Dai Liu Heng and take his place as king in that province. So, General Lu Kun puts a scheme in place to frame King Dai Liu Heng for treachery so he may take the king’s head but when it comes time to take the king’s head does he do it? Noooooo, he decides to hold the king’s mother hostage and the place the king under house arrest so that he can marry the king’s sister and… what in the world is he doing?!? 

It says we are a comedy... what's a "comedy"?

It does not make any sense but spoofs rarely do. This delightful send up of the plot devices used in the spy movies that were coming to be popular in the sixties was a great idea but to set it in ancient China is probably where it threw everybody off. The movie itself is very funny in certain places but defies logic in just as many places and so while one should only have fun with it, the movie is set in a genre where everything is taken very, very seriously. What a challenge!

And what am I --blind?

Kim Jin-Kyu aka the Masked Man aka That Man in Chang-An aka Zhuang Bai the alchemist

the good: Kim Jin-Kyu as Zhuang Bai aka, The Masked Man aka, That Man in Chang-An. Fang Ying as Princess Wen Yang. Alison Chang Yen as Hong-er. Tien Feng as King Dai Liu Heng. Yan Jun as Cao Wu.

the bad: Park Nou-Sik as General Lu Kun. Cheung Kwong-Chiu as General Zhang. Chiu Ming as General Tian Ying.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kim Jin-Kyu as That Man in Chang-An. Mr. Kim totally sells his character as comedic when he has to and serious when he needs to, perfect casting!

SPOTTED: Fan Mei-Sheng as Cao Wu’s waiter. 

Fan Mei-Sheng 

What do you mean "you have to go??!"

FIGHT TIME: THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) has no fight choreographer credited. I counted eight (8) fight scenes scattered throughout the movie. For the most part they are short scenes with the exception of the four-minute finale. These fight scenes are basically by the numbers “one, two, three – kill” sword fights, rarely (there are exceptions, mostly during the finale.) more that two attackers at a time no matter how many soldiers enter the scene. There is also some last minute under cranking during the finally that just adds to the humor of the entire film, believe me, you do not watch this film for the fights.

HONORABLE MENTION: Alison Chang Yen’s (as Hong-er) double daggers versus soldiers with swords and spears fight scenes with its very direct maneuvering and quick-kill counters, were the best fights in the entire movie hands down. No nonsense, practical self defense techniques, bravo!

RECOMMENDATION: THAT MAN IN CHANG-AN (1967) is an automatic recommendation as a purchase because it is collectible as the first wuxia / comedy ever made. I was very animated while watching this movie with its the humorous moments and with the sheer ridiculousness of some of the scenarios presented, so I am definitely recommending it for the average viewer for pure popcorn entertainment! This movie is funny, period. That’s me for now, see you next time.

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